Why Are Malaysian Roads So Bad?

More to the point, why hasn’t anything been done to fix these utterly terrible roads?

There is a stretch of road near where I live that I would like to present the world’s worst road surface award to.

No, it is not some road in the Himalayas that is constantly washed away by landslides or some Amazonian trunk road used by explorers or nature documentary makers. The world’s worst road can be found is right here in the heart of PJ. 

To those internet sleuths, I’ll save you some time, its Jalan PJU8/3A in Damansara Perdana.

I didn’t think it was possible to emulate the surface of the moon on Earth but this piece of tarmac downhill is certainly trying its best, with all its numerous craters and uneven pavement dotting this 500 meter stretch of tire popping, wheel buckling, suspension crippling, back breaking hell. 

Seriously, the images here don’t do it justice to how bad this horrendously piece of road surface is. 

The only reasonable speed to drive down this utterly horrendous piece of tarmac is at a crawling pace, and even then your arse clenches when you are forced to drive into one of these unavoidable ravines. 

Admittedly, I may be a tad biased since I have to drive down this road everyday. I do also concede that I drive a harder riding car than most. And yes, my tires are a thin black veneer painted on a large rim. However, remember here that this road is situation in a metropolitan area of Petaling Jaya, and not in the wilderness of Borneo. People here don’t drive Toyota Land Cruisers and Hiluxes with large squishy tires and thick side walls. 

Sadly, we don’t all drive these cars in the congested streets of PJ.

Besides, even the toughest of 4x4s with the chunkiest suspension and the squishiest of tires would not be able to sustain this kind of abuse daily. 

These ravines are so deep that take even a Rolls Royce down here, which some more affluent residents do, and you’ll still feel the pain and discomfort. Both on your spine, and in your wallet. 

The kind of car that drive down the worst road in the world on a daily basis. Check out the i8 behind too.

Really, just look at the size of these holes, sorry I mean massive craters. And it is no point telling me to avoid them, because its these ravines are dotted everywhere along this road, that it is simply impossible to avoid even in the most nippy and tiny of cars. 

You miss one, another one ahead is eagerly to slash your tires, bend your wheel and break your spine.

The result of meeting the ravine above.

Some more level-headed people than I might point to the cause of all this bad road surface on what I nominate as the worst road in the world is due to the DASH highway construction going on nearby. 

Without wanting to open another can of worms about the congestion, diversions, delays and headaches caused to the residents due to this highway construction project; residents who incidentally have to actually drive through this commuter hell every single day for the past couple of years now; and just judging the road plainly on the utterly messed up road surface, Jalan PJU8/3a still takes the trophy of the worst piece of tarmac in the world, with some runner-ups in the vicinity. 

Being reasonable for just a moment before continuing the tirade on this inhumane piece of road, I do understand that construction work generally leads to damaged roads. Heavy machinery causes chaos on the tarmac and contractors dig the roads up all the time to lay cable and pipes. 

Then again though, one could also argue that construction work absolutely does not grant a free pass to absolutely terrible road surfaces.

Look at Japan, the only times their roads look this bad is when an earthquakes strikes the land of the rising sun. But as I’m sure you have all seen the videos, the damaged roads are up and running (complete with smooth tarmac) by the end of the week. 

A highway repair in Japan. Photo: Kinja

Meanwhile, this utterly garbage piece of tarmac I have to drive down every day to get to my own front door has been in this shape (or worse) for the past 2 years now. 

To add fuel to the already raging fire, this small piece of moon on Earth here isn’t the only bad road around of course, there are a countless number of tarmacs that deserve a consolation prize to this award even just in KL alone. 

Ask anyone and everyone who drives and they can name a truly horrendous piece of road that is absolutely suspension-shattering to drive on. Scratch that, you don’t even need to drive to know which piece of road is notoriously bad. Even here on DSF we have posted multiple stories documenting several notoriously terribly surfaced roads. 

Defenders of these badly surfaced roads, if there are any ludicrous enough to do so, would argue saying that: Oh it’s supposed to deter people from speeding. Nice roads means people will speed more etc. So when the roads are bad, people will have no choice but to drive slow. 

But plainly this isn’t the case. 

Speed humps stop people from speeding. If you truly want to stop people from speeding, install speed humps or rumble strips, and fix the utterly terrible road. 

Bad roads just ruin your tires, wheel, suspension and in some cases your back. And when that does happen, where does the money for the repair and the osteopath come from? 

That’s right, your own pocket. 

Goodbye old shock absorbers, and goodbye money.

Every motorist has experienced the joy of the newly paved smooth road, but these roads don’t last long. It could be as soon as the next day that another construction company would be back at it digging the fresh tarmac up to install some pipe or wire that they forgot to connect. 

And when they do finally finish whatever they were doing down there, instead of repaving the road to make it one even piece of tarmac, the contractors just do a slap-dash job of fixing the massive ravine they themselves created by simply plonking in some gravel on only that strip and calling it a day. Leaving the newly paved road with a totally mismatched piece of gravel right down the middle of it. 

Why does this always happen?

And also, why aren’t us as citizens doing anything about it? 

Why are we so tolerant of these crap roads? It goes without saying that everyone has cursed the piece of utterly rotten tarmac we drive on everyday. After two years of this hell, I would consider that my vocabulary has expanded tremendously. However that is the extent of what we do, we just complain to ourselves.

Once out of the car, the anger and frustration is gone and we all collectively push the responsibility of dealing with this problem to someone else. Nobody actually goes and calls the council or the construction company to give them a piece of our minds.

Why though, why are Malaysians so tolerant of this? 

How can we say that this is a drivable surface in civilised society?

One last thing I would like ask, and this question is directed towards our elected officials and council people. I would really like to know what car you all drive and where exactly you live to not feel that the roads that are under your jurisdiction and responsibility are anything but utter shit. 

You guys have the power, and more importantly are placed in these positions of power by us the electorate, to make the roads not feel like I’m driving on the surface of the moon. 

Yes, you all constantly complain that budget is an issue. If that is the issue, then raise it to the government. Debate it in parliament and try to solve the problem. And to those who are actually in government, do something about it then! 

Isn’t the job of the government to improve the lives of all of its citizens? Don’t tell me that you all don’t notice the pain and suffering that all Malaysian drivers go through every day, thanks to these terrible roads nationwide. As far as I know, there is no train to Putrajaya yet.

I honestly think that if there are any burgeoning politicians around wanting to win popular support, forget playing the race or religion card, just fix our roads and you may just be rewarded with the highest seat in the land. 

And to those who will like to nominate a competitor to the title of worst road surface in Malaysia, I welcome you to nominate. Please share with us your worst road location and may be someone in JKR might take action to do the necessary repairs PROPERLY!

This should be a collective effort to make our voices as road users loud and clear to the people in power that WE WANT BETTER ROADS!

We’re not asking for a deserted ribbon of perfection, we’re simply asking on roads that won’t break the back, and the bank.

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

Related Articles


  1. Agree one hundred percent. I don’t know why we as Malaysians are so timid and quiet, and the people in charge take that for granted, by doing everything cincai, bcs no one will say anything. The blame is on all the contractors, who do half-assed jobs for road constructions, and also the government bodies and the developer companies in charge, bcs they wanna cut cost, and to hell are the Malaysian road users. They don’t need Malaysia to be beautiful and neat, bcs they spend their life and wealth outside Malaysia in first world countries, we Malaysians are only their income source.

  2. I do not think we Malaysians are timid or do nothing about it. This is all to be blamed on our corrupt government. No regulation, no enforcement, “no budget”. Of course developers and construction companies can get away with subpar work. Who will haul their asses to penalise these subpar work? Because they will receive praise or promotion? Even if one takes the initiative to improve, where will they get budget to see it through? Gomen?

    Changes come from the top. If the top doesn’t change, our citizens will continue to suffer. How many Bersih rally do we need? Just to move the needle? This is a deep seated problem in our country, the mentality of people, cronyism, corruption and blatant unfairness serving privilege for a selected group not by credit but by origin. So long as the weed isn’t pulled by its roots, it continues to grow.

    Sure, if we pester and complain enough, we might see one or two potholes repaired. But we know this isn’t IT.

    These potholes are a perfect representation of the current situation in our country’s governance, equally of the citizens welfare.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button